Dating App: Pebbles

In 2020, people turned to dating apps more so than ever in attempts to find love. However, 45% of users say dating apps made them frustrated, and 35% say they feel pessimistic using dating apps. This is a project where I tried to redesign the interaction of dating apps.

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Project Overview

While dating apps provide users more opportunities to explore potential relationships, many still express their distress of how rare it is to form lasting and genuine connections. This project focuses on proposing a gamifying idea for dating app experience that transform the users interaction on dating app and help them find more suitable matches.


December 2020 - January 2021


Product Designer, Interaction Designer, User Research


Personal Project

The Problem

How might we help form lasting relationships that begin in dating apps for people that are bad at small talks?

Dating apps have become the new norm of meeting new people nowadays. While providing their users access to a larger pool of potential soulmates, many users still failed at the dating game. People who find it harder to start a meaningful conversation often faces connection running dry or experience dissapointment after meeting face to face with the person they spent time texting. All of these eventually lead to the users giving up on dating apps.

Design Solution

Pebbles is a dating app that incorporates small mobile gaming features, conversation inducing profile design, and interaction encouraging responses to help users to get to know each other beyond superficial texting.


Conversation Starter Profile

  • Personalize photo captions
  • Filter preference
  • Conversation starting prompts

Theo can look through profiles based on his preference. The profile is designed to provide many conversation starters for a friendly approach.


Emotes Response

  • Express interest with emotes
  • More engaging than "Like"
  • Interaction inducing

When Theo found someone that catches his eyes, aside from text responses, he can also choose to response with emotes that are much more engagin than conventional "like" and "swipe right".


Hashtag Search Profile

  • Mutual interest topics
  • Easier conversation idea

If no-one inspires his conversation flow, Theo can search with hashtags for someone with the similar topic hashtags listed in their profile.


Game with Each Other

  • Invite matches to game sessions
  • Get to know each other beyond messaging

Once matched with the each other, Theo can invite his matches into a paired small in-app game, Egg Defense, to enjoy the gaming activity with his matches and get to know each other beyond messaging.


Randomized Pairing in Games

  • Game with random users
  • Explore relationship opportunities beyond profiles

If Theo is feeling adventurous, he can let the app pair him up in Egg Defense with someone random. This might be a start of a new relationship with someone he might overwise not notice based on their profiles!

The Result

I think I would really appreciate the feature to play small games with people on dating app.

I showed the demonstration of the final prototype to one of the participants of the user testing. They said for people like them who are not great at small talks really prefer and need the time to explore their match before meeting them face to face, the option to play a game with them really seems very exciting.


Focusing on the target audience

While running the user testing, I had a chance to engage in a discussion with one of the participants that did not really past the screening qualification. They mentioned about whether a game feature is actually appealing to the users on the market because the participant themselves never really bothered with gaming at all. However, according to Statista, smartphone gaming revenue is no doubt growing stronger than ever with a forecast of surpassing 100 billion USD of revenue by 2023. This made me realize, even when the dating app industry itself is growing as well, there will be no one for all solution.

1.0 The Research

1.1 Methods

1 Literature Review

In order to better understand the problem space and understand the current discovered phenomena, I started the research process by reading research papers.

2 Survey

After learning the some fact through research studies, I designed a survey to help gain quantitative data to validate some of my assumptions.

3 Interview

I dived deeper into the problem area by interviewing 5 participants from the survey to uncover the qualitative reason behind the data.

1.2 Key Insights

More than 50% of the respondents do not keep in touch with their dating app matches after meeting face to face.

According to research studies, people tend to tweak and exaggerate their self-presentation on dating apps, resulting to users having unrealistic idealization of each other through texting.

Impressions formed through online dating are based on strategic portrayals of oneself, and the impressions more than often are not the reality of the other person's real-life quality.

It is difficult to engage in meaningful or lasting conversation.

Many users find it hard to engage in lasting and meaningful conversation. Especially ones that consider themselves bad at small talks. In order to catch attention of one another through the not so different profiles, the users results to spending longer time to come up witty and humorous conversations, which leads to little to no understanding of each other.

I feel so pressured coming up with a funny enough first lines or responses. Many times if I am not funny enough, they just don't reply at all. What do I do if I'm just not a funny person?

Users are not always comfortable with video/voice chat with online strangers.

Due to the COVID situation, users have been encouraged to voice/video chat with each other instead of meeting face-to-face. However, many users expressed that they felt awkard and nervous doing so, especially when they were already having a hard time keeping a text conversation.

I've tried video calls with them(matches). It was very stressful before the call and very awkward during, and I felt very uncomfortable. I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon.

2.0 Ideation

From the synthesized research result above, I created a persona to help me focus on the identified target audience and to avoid loosing sight of the TA's pain points.

I created a journey map for Theo to understand the emotions and key moments behind his process of interacting with a dating app and to identify possible opportunities.

I conducted competitive analysis to evaluate how the current dating apps in the market are performing and collected some feedback the users have for each of them.

2.4 Synthesized Findings

The connotation behind popular apps.

While Tinder has the largest population pool, its gravitation towards casual relationship can sometimes scare off users. Users doesn't like the amount of creepy people that get attracted to the app easily, and users also don't like being seen on the app by acquaintances due to the connotations behind these apps give off.

I've only ever tried Tinder, but I hate it because of the connotations it has...

Good conversation starters can be a beautiful beginning.

People like Hinge app, especially for providing more conversation starter elements in the users profile. However, many of the prompts only yields generic answers, some give off negative vibes, and some doesn't really reveal anything about the users.


  • Engaging content
  • Provides conversation starter
  • Serious relationship formula


  • Generic answer prompt
  • Negative starter
  • Repetitive content

Sample prompts on Hinge.

Opportunities for serious relationships.

There are a huge amount of dating apps with different types of target audience, but ultimately, most apps eventually tilt towards more casual type of relationship forming system. There is still opportunities for the more serious relationship market.

2.5 Brainstorm & Design Principle

Once I identified the oppportunities, I moved on to brainstorming for ideas. I narrowed down my ideas based on the design principles I had in mind to make sure the experience represent a pleasant and exciting image.

Encourage interaction

Disclosing not invasive

Fun but serious image

The final selected idea was to provide a gaming activity for the users and to encourage lasting conversations by providing conversation starter elements such as prompts and hashtags.

3.0 Iteration

Based on the features selected, I created the information architecture for the app. The goal of doing so is to find the best and most logical structure to nest the gaming feature.

Based on the information architecture, I sketched out wireframes for the idea to plan out the user flow and to clarify the components.

This image showcases how users invite their match to a game session.

This is an overview of the entire wireframe created for user testing.

3.3 Design Decisions

During the decision process, I came across some design challenges I had to make, below are a few of them:

How might we come up with prompts that are conversation-friendly while avoiding bad answers?

Bad prompts present risks of bad answers. Users will not be able to pick up what is a bad choice, so the design of the prompt is very important. I took careful consideration and refer to online dating consultant's suggestions and made sure to create prompt that follows the guideline below:

Prompt Principles

  • Harmless/uncontroversial trends
  • Story prompting
  • Positive information sharing
  • Avoid negative statements
  • Avoid repetitive information
  • Avoid controvertial statements

How might we form a forgivable invitation flow?

While small game is a considerably less intimidating activities for the users to engage in, it is still important to provide a flexible and forgiving flow for the users to back out if they want to and avoid unwanted commitments.

How might we incorporate the hashtag system?

Where should the hashtag reside in and how could the users submit their response? I had to consider if the hashtags should take its own section under the user profile or other options. Consider that hashtag itself in this design is part of the conversation starting elements and meant to work like a more specific and detailed answer towards the question of "what to talk about?" I decided to make it part of the prompt where the users can simply choose to use it or not.

3.4 User Testing & Refinement

3 participants were invited to test out the design to help me collect usability feedbacks and responses for the idea. The key critique I received is:

The participants mentioned feeling indifferent to other users simply "liking" their photos.

The participants mentioned that when receiving likes in other dating apps, it made them question if it was just an off-handed reaction among many other "likes" the other person sent out and it doesn't feel personal enough. In order to create a more dynamic response and to encourage interactions, I decided to take the "like" response a step further and design emotes to diversify the reaction and provide a more emotional reach-out method.

3.5 Design System

Based on the idea of the game, I ideated and created the design system for Pebbles that is fitting to the north pole scenary hue while still being energetic and fun.